Dubai’s bid to ensure that 100 percent of its total power capacity comes from clean energy sources by 2050 as part of its Net Zero Carbon Emissions Strategy 2050 is on track, supported by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (MBR Solar Park).
One of the most extensive renewable energy projects taken up by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is the largest single-site solar park in the world.
The managing director and CEO of DEWA, Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, said: “The current capacity at the solar park is 1,527MW using photovoltaic solar panels. DEWA is implementing more projects with a total capacity of 1,333MW using solar photovoltaic and concentrated solar power (CSP) in addition to future phases to reach 5,000MW by 2030.
“The clean energy capacity share is currently around 11.4 percent of Dubai’s energy mix, and is expected to reach around 14 percent by the end of 2022.”
The solar park has a planned capacity of 5,000MW by 2030 with investments up to $13.6 billion (AED 50 billion). Once complete, the project will reduce more than 6.5 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
Al Tayer added that the regulatory frameworks in Dubai, which enable the private sector to take part in energy production projects in Dubai, have encouraged international investors and developers to participate in the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park’s projects.
DEWA has implemented the independent power producer (IPP) model on the project and has attracted investments of approximately $10.89 billion (AED 40 billion) through this model in public-private partnerships.
DEWA also received the lowest solar energy prices (levelised cost of energy) globally five consecutive times, making Dubai a global benchmark for solar power prices.
Five phases of the Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park
The 13MW first phase became operational on 22 October 2013, comprising around 152,000 photovoltaic cells, connected to 13 transformers in inverter buildings.
The output is transformed to 33 kilovolts (kV), and generates nearly 28 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually.
The first phase contributes to an annual reduction of about 15,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.
On 20 March 2017, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the 200MW photovoltaic second phase of the solar park, which is the largest and first project of its kind in the region, based on the IPP model.
DEWA implemented the project in partnership with a consortium led by ACWA Power from Saudi Arabia as the main developer, and Spain’s TSK as the main contractor, with an investment of AED 1.2 billion.
The efforts of Shuaa Energy 1, which was established by DEWA and the consortium led by ACWA Power and TSK, were vital in completing the work efficiently and professionally, with over 1.5 million Safe Man Hours without Lost Time Injury.
The second phase of the solar park provides clean energy to around 50,000 residences in the Emirate, reducing 214,000 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
This phase installed 2.3 million photovoltaic solar panels over an area of 4.5 square kilometres.
In November 2020, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum inaugurated the 800MW third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park using photovoltaic solar panels.
DEWA implemented the third phase using the IPP model in partnership with a consortium led by Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) and EDF Group, through its subsidiary EDF Énergies Nouvelles at an investment of AED3.47 billion.
The third phase provides clean energy for over 240,000 residences in Dubai. The facility is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa region to use single-axis solar tracking to increase energy generation.
It also uses other innovative technologies, including cleaning robots for photovoltaic panels to increase the plant’s efficiency.
The 950MW fourth phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park has investments totalling AED15.78 billion based on the IPP model.
It is the largest single-site investment project that combines CSP and photovoltaic technology.
It will use 700MW of CSP (600MW from a parabolic basin complex and 100MW from the solar power tower) and 250MW from photovoltaic solar panels.
When complete, the project will have the largest thermal storage capacity in the world of 15 hours, allowing for energy availability round the clock.
The fourth phase will provide clean energy for around 320,000 residences and reduce 1.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions every year.
In November 2019, DEWA announced the consortium led by ACWA Power and Gulf Investment Corporation as the preferred bidder to build and operate the 900MW 5th phase of the Solar Park, using photovoltaic solar panels based on the IPP model.
DEWA achieved a world record by receiving the lowest bid of USD 1.6953 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for this phase.
It uses the latest solar photovoltaic bifacial technologies with Single Axis Tracking to increase energy production.
It will provide clean energy for more than 270,000 residences in Dubai and reduce 1.18 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
Innovation and R&D
The solar park hosts two pioneering projects: The Innovation Centre and the R&D Centre.
The Innovation Centre supports DEWA’s efforts to support innovation and creativity in clean and renewable energy and raise awareness on sustainability in addition to strengthening national capabilities and enhancing business competitiveness.
The Innovation Centre provides visitors with a unique experience to explore the latest innovations in clean energy technologies.
The exhibition area on the first floor focuses on DEWA’s journey, key historical inventions and innovations in electricity, and the latest developments in renewable and sustainable energy.
The area includes over 30 interactive exhibits designed to introduce visitors to developments in renewable energy.
The site also houses the DEWA Museum, water desalination plants, and a visual space that explains the properties of light and solar radiation.
The Centre also features an exhibition on critical components of photovoltaic solar cells and related technologies, including Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and the Solar Power Tower.
It also showcases DEWA’s renewable energy journey, Smart DEWA, solar cell applications in spacecraft and satellites, and the development of DEWA’s sustainable buildings.
The R&D Centre supports DEWA’s efforts to anticipate the future, develop proactive, long-term plans to keep pace with the Fourth Industrial Revolution by developing disruptive technologies.
The Centre’s research areas include solar power, smart grid integration, energy efficiency, and water.
It also focuses on space technologies and the Fourth Industrial Revolution applications such as 3D printing and additive manufacturing.
These are some of the innovative solutions being used to produce spare parts for DEWA’s generation, transmission, and distribution divisions.
The R&D Centre has various internal labs and outdoor labs to study the performance and reliability of photovoltaic solar panels. Key internal labs include the Electrical Characterisation Lab, the Mechanical Characterisation Lab, the Materials Characterisation Lab, the Solar Simulator Lab, and the Accelerated Aging Lab.
The outdoor labs include testing different solar panel technologies and performance, as well as the Robotic and Drone laboratory, which contributed to DEWA achieving a Guinness World Records title for the first 3D-printed lab in the world.
The R&D Centre is the only Centre in the UAE that focuses on renewable energy, smart grid technologies and energy efficiency.
It has the largest and most comprehensive solar testing and certification facility in the UAE. It operates the longest continuous testing of photovoltaic panels in the UAE in desert climate conditions.